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Short-tailed Shearwater Images
__NOTOC__ The Short-tailed Shearwater or Slender-billed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), also called Yolla or Moonbird, and commonly known as the muttonbird in Australia, is the most abundant seabird species in Australian waters, and is one of the few Australian native birds in which the chicks are commercially harvested. The chicks are caught in nets then put the bird in boiling water for a few seconds. It is a migratory species that breeds mainly on small islands in Bass Strait and Tasmania and migrates to the Northern Hemisphere for the boreal summer. In New Zealand the Sooty Shearwater is the local 'muttonbird', and other harvested petrel species, such as the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, may be known as muttonbirds elsewhere. This species appears to be related to the New Zealand muttonbird and the Great Shearwater, all blunt-tailed, black-billed species, but its precise relationships are obscure (Austin, 1996; Austin et al., 2004). These are among the larger species of shearwater which might belong into a separate genus, Ardenna (Penhallurick & Wink, 2004). Each parent feeds the single chick for 23 days and then leaves for up to three weeks in search of food. These foraging trips can cover a distance of 1,500 km (930 mi) and mean the chick may be left unattended for over a week. When the chicks fledge they weigh around 900 g (2 lb), and may be heavier than their parents. In Tasmania, and especially on the muttonbird islands of the Furneaux Group, the chicks are harvested at this time for food and oil. The largest population in the world (2.8 millions of pairs - about 12% of this species) seems to be located on the Babel Island. Each austral winter, the Shearwaters migrate to the seas off the Aleutian Islands and Kamchatka. In the austral spring, they travel down the coast of California before crossing the Pacific back to Australia.
Being a seabird, the flesh is covered in a considerable quantity of fat, which is normally removed in preparation of the meat before cooking. When split down the breast and cooked on a barbecue, the resultant meat is red and thick, with a taste reminiscent of a beef steak more than of lamb, with a mild hint of the sea. The texture of the meat is similar to lamb or mutton and hence the name muttonbird. The dish is best eaten using one's hands rather than a knife and fork.
Gillson, Greg (2008) Field separation of Sooty and Short-tailed Shearwaters off the west coast of North America Birding 40(2):34-40